My whole life I have been drawn to telling the important stories. I have always been easy to talk to, and people end up telling me things they don’t normally tell others. I think it’s because I believe people’s stories, their lives, are special and important. I think that is why I became a writer.
I got really sick when I was around ten or eleven. It got bad enough that I missed most of junior high. I was diagnosed with depression. I responded badly to a cross reaction of depression meds and steroids to reduce inflammation and I ended up practically bedridden for two and half years. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t interact with anyone. So I read books, lots and lots of books. My mom would go to the library and bring me back sections of books from the shelves. I read the backs of cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, newspapers. I read my parents’ college textbooks. I read what my brother was reading two years ahead of me in school.
During that time I also wrote stories. That’s when I really began my writing career. I filled journals with stories. Filled notebooks with poems, song lyrics, and drawings. I didn’t really write about what was going on in my body or my mind, but I wrote stories about fending off attacking dragons or invading alien races. My stories were the only way I could process those three intense years.
Writing literally saved my life.
Not only has this experience made me an excellent Jeopardy player and pop-culture maven, but it has made human connection really important to me. It guided me to writing and teaching as a career. For thirteen years, I helped students find their voices as writers. I helped women work through trauma in writing workshops, and participated in poetry groups. Helping people find their stories and tell them is one of the motivating principles in my life. It was what lead me to Bloom.
Because of complications of liver damage and later kidney damage, I have had to be really careful about my self-care, boundaries, and self-talk. So when you read something from me on the blog, or see something inspirational on Instagram and FaceBook, I want you to know that it comes from experience and a place of love. It takes time to build skills to take care of ourselves. It takes time to heal from the curve balls life throws at us. It is a crazy journey to finally listening to your body and your heart. But I believe that we can do it.
One of the things that has helped me through the hardest times is figuring out a point to my life, a purpose, a driving theme that isn’t connected to my roles, or job, or financial status. I used to call myself a teacher, but then I wasn’t. I am a writer, but that’s just what I do for work. And what if I am not working? So, I ask myself, “what is the thing that gives me life that isn’t related to money or media or my relationship status?”
I ask myself, “What is my point?”
During one of these really hard times, when I was facing kidney failure, I realized that the love of stories and need for human connection I developed when I was sick for those three years as a kid were really what drove my life. I love people. I listen to them. I help them make sense of their stories. And then I tell the important stories. Whether I am single or married, whether I am making money on it or not, whether I am healthy or sick, I tell the important stories.
But what do you do when your life and all the purpose you THOUGHT you had goes away?
There are times when life comes crashing down around us. For me it was major depression and childhood trauma. For others it may be infidelity, losing a child, or losing a job. We all have really bad stuff happen to us, and pain really can’t be compared. What is life-shattering for one, might not be that big of a deal to another. But when the hard times come, and they will come, how do we rebuild our lives? How do we figure out our point?
For me, I knew I had to stop defining myself by what I had and what I didn’t have and define myself by what was really important to me. And what was important to me?
Love and stories.
It has become the guiding force for myself. If I am ever unhappy, I come back to love and the stories. Am I writing? Am I helping others to find their voices? Am I giving words to unspeakable? That is where my purpose comes from.
Sometime this week, sit down and ask yourself where purpose comes into your life. Try not to have it be connected to your status, roles, or family. Those are all things that can shift.
I knew I had to stop defining myself by what I had and what I didn’t have and define myself by what was really important to me.
- What brings me happiness?
- When do I feel the most fulfilled?
- What does that look like?
Try to find the feeling or action behind these questions. I loved teaching because I was helping people find their voice through writing. I love my job at Bloom because I am helping women to find their voices as they heal and transform themselves. It is why I love reading to kids and having them read to me. It is why listening to people is always my number one priority. The work that I do will always be service oriented in terms of helping people speak their truths.
So, to all of you in the trenches, if you are feeling lost and you aren’t sure who you are anymore, just remember that you have the power to rebuild yourself. You can choose. Start with the simple question, “What is my point?” and make a list of the things that you want to keep in your life and the things that you want to incorporate. Take out all the other things that don’t ring true anymore. Take out the messy rules that aren’t really true. Decide what your point is going to be and stick to it. This will give you purpose. And purpose can lead to hope. And that is something we all need more of.
All my love,